November 19, 2019

Schlock & Schtick

“Mizlansky/ Zilinsky” by Jon Robin Baitz is a play about two Hollywood types you don’t read about in fan magazines or see at Academy Award presentations.

Davis Mizlansky and Sam Zilinsky are wheelers and dealers in Hollywood’s nether world, whose credits include such C-level films as “Hitler’s Niece” and “Lovers of Mink.”

Now the backing for even such schlocky flicks has run out, and the IRS is breathing down Mizlansky’s neck. He stakes his survival on a tax shelter scheme underpinned by a series of children’s Bible story records, such as “Revelation Revealed” and “Sodom and Gomorrah: The True Story!!”

The suckers willing to pour their money down this particular hole are a group of Oklahoma dentists, represented by a particularly unpleasant WASP bigot.

Every other character in the play is Jewish, including a down-on-his-luck actor who has been trying to peddle a script on Nazis in America, unsuccessfully, of course.

One of the genuinely funny moments in the play comes when the actor tries to pitch the project to the Oklahoma anti-Semite, who worries that the other, pro-Nazi side may not be fully represented.

Otherwise, the play is not nearly as funny and punchy as the plot and characters might lead one to expect.

Despite the hyperkinetic efforts of the rotund, motor-mouthed Michael Lerner in the key role of Mizlansky, too much of the Jewish-flavored schtick sags under the weight of age and familiarity, similar to, say, a Jackie Mason routine.